Hsaa Mote is an isolating language with minimal morphology, spoken as a trade language on a tropical archipelago. It's canonical sentence structure is OVS - with a twist.
It's call to phonological fame are its fricative+consonant onsets and its labial-velar consonants.
The maximal syllable shape is SCVVC, where the final consonant is never a glide (which historically either mutated the vowels or became -v -x, respectively).
Only the word-final syllable can be closed, and only the word-initial syllable can lack an onset.
Stress always falls on the penultimate mora, i.e.:
* stress is penultimate if the final syllable is open and short
* stress is also penultimate if the final syllable ends with a stop
* otherwise, a final closed syllable or long vowel bears the stress.
It is worth noting that SC onsets are an effect of historical vowel lenition after fricatives. Exact conditions for that lenition are poorly understood but they seem to have included shortening of long vowels and deletion of short ones. Because of that, long vowels are rare after a fricative (although still possible, as the name of the language shows.)
Short vowels: <a e i o>
Long vowels: <aa ee ii oo>
Diphthongs: <ia ie ao>
Voiceless stops: kp p t tx (tʃ) k
Voiced stops: gb b d j (dʒ)
Nasals: ngm (ŋm) m n ng (ŋ)
Voiceless fricatives: s ł (ɬ) x (ʃ) h
Voiced fricatives: v
Liquids: r l
Glides: w y (j)
In consonant mutations, <j> patterns with <ng>.
In addition, <ng> becomes <n> after a fricative.
Rules of vowel ablaut
In the ergative case, one of the vowels usually undergoes w-ablaut. It is synchronically unpredictable which vowel that will be.
The ablaut of the vowels is as follows:
* a-w -> o
* e-w -> *ø -> e next to a labial and o otherwise
* i-w -> *y -> i next to a labial and o otherwise
* o-w -> oo
* a final vowel never undergoes ablaut
* words with onset clusters often don't exhibit vowel ablaut due to the vowel having been deleted; however, a historical long oo usually didn't undergo full deletion but shortening, leading to a **Ø-o correspondence**
* *tahsa* "boat" -> *tahosa*
* only short vowels can undergo ablaut
Rules of consonant mutation
In the ergative case, a final consonant usually undergoes mutation according to the following rules:
* a voiced stop becomes a nasal (*kaad* "man" -> *kaan*)
* a nasal becomes a glide or liquid (*tien* "girl" -> *tiel*)
* /v/ elides (*kassev* "house" -> *koosse*)
* other final consonants remain unchanged (*joos* "water" -> *joos*)
Another productive and common consonant mutation verbalizes nouns. It fortites the initial consonant of a noun as follows:
* voiceless stops and fricatives remain unaffected
* a voiced stop gains an initial **a-** (*joos* "water" -> *ajoos* "to flow")
* a nasal becomes a voiced stop (*mote* "language" -> *bote* "to speak")
* glides and liquids become fricatives (*wakpa* "boat" -> *vakpa* "to go by boat, to sail")
* voiced fricative v becomes r (*voto* "pole" -> *roto* "to impale, to skewer")
* this fortition is lost in reduplicants of finite verbs
Hsaa Mote has a rather strict OVS word order, and Ergative-Absolutive alignment.
It uses verb serialization for a lot of functions, with the verb chain looking like this:
[finite verb] (ABS-object) V1 (ABS-object) V2 ... ERG-subject.
Intransitive verbs, if forming an independent clause, usually take the form:
[finite verb] ABS-subject V1. However, they easily participate in verb chains, with the understanding that they don’t refer to the ergative subject.
Each transitive verb in a verb series has to co-refer the subject. If a previous object takes over as subject in the next verb chain, an anaphoric definite article is used to refer to it:
ITER 2s.ABS address threat say man\ERG, PERF DEF.SG.R man.ABS kill 1s.ERG = "I killed the man who threatened you."
Hsaa Mote nouns have two cases: Absolutive and Ergative/Genitive. (Only personal pronouns have separate Genitive/Possessive forms.) The Ergative is formed from the Absolutive by ablaut which affects one of the vowels, e.g.:
ABS mote -> ERG moote (language)
Both cases are often equal in short nouns with SC onsets, since the ablauted vowel got elided:
ABS hsaa -> ERG hsaa (father)
In consonant-final nouns, the final consonant is also ablauted:
ABS tien -> ERG tiel (girl)
To refer to an already mentioned nominal argument, a definite article is used, conjugated for gender (rational-nonrational) and number (singular-dual-plural).
A set of common nouns has irregular plural forms stemming from earlier full reduplication but obscured by sound change. In many cases, these plurals became separate nouns with a collective meaning. Most nouns, however, don't obligatorily mark for plural. Number is usually expressed with stative verbs such as "to be numerous".
(Since stative verbs take an absolutive subject, stating plurality of an ergative subject may require coreference but doesn't necessarily require a separate finite verb:
PFV man be.numerous wall climb DEF.RAT.PL man\ERG (The men climbed the wall.)
Other than plurality, there are two other historical reduplication processes which are no longer productive but are a source of many modern nouns:
* partial reduplication ~s(V)CVC(V) used for diminutives: e.g. tien -> tiensen (little girl, baby girl)
* partial prefixing reduplication CV~... - adds intensity or augments: mote -> momote (speech, saga, important words)
The Ergative doubles as a Genitive in the inalienable possessive construction:
ERG ABS = ERG's ABS This can be seen in the name of the language:
hsaa mote (father\ERG language.ABS = "father's language" = "mother tongue")
Alienable possession is expressed with a verb (e.g., IMP daughter to.have John\ERG, PERF her see I\ERG = "I saw John's daughter.")
Only a closed group of finite verbs inflect for aspect. Most verbs only have one form. There is no agreement marking on verbs.
Modal marking is usually achieved by the semantics of the selected finite verb.
Tense can only be marked adverbially.
Most finite verbs can be described as light.
Finite verbs conjugate for the following aspects (showcased by the verb *bote*, originally meaning "to speak", and now introducing related speech):
* perfective PRF - uses the bare stem; *bote*
* progressive PROG - historically formed by CV~ reduplication; *bomote*
* iterative ITER ("again and again") - diachronically formed by full reduplication of the stem; also covers frequentative ("run around", "sparkle"); *botemote*
* stative STAT (covering also gnomic) ("I know Hsaa Mote" - continuous but not progressing) - formed by prefix ya- from the perfective form *yabote*
* inchoative INCH - formed by suffix -hse from the progressive form *bomotehse*
* cessative CES - formed by suffix -hse from the perfective form *botehse*
* * habitual HAB - formed by suffix -hse from iterative form *botemotehse*
* Passive voice is built by adding the verb “yete” (get, arrive) after the passivized verb. Cf.:
* tii tien vtoo bao = I spoke to the girl.
* tii vtoo yete bao = I was spoken to.
* tii vtoo yete tiel, tii xee (tien) vtoo bao = I spoke to the girl who was spoken to.
* Interrogative voice uses the fossilized expression **(baa) agbiye** “(I) listen/ask” at the beginning or at the end of the sentence.
* Imperative voice omits the subject and the initial auxilliary verb:
* tien vtoo! ("Speak to the girl") -> an absolutive object is not omitted
* agbiye! ("Ask, inquire!") -> an absolutive subject is omitted
* Hsaa Mote doesn't have a real middle voice. To express reflexives/autobenefactives, first and second person uses the respective pronouns as both the subject and the object:
* titi baa ngore bao = "I shout at myself again and again." (I.e.: I keep reproaching myself.)
* in third person, the noun *ngme* is used as the ergative subject: titihse xee kaad vtoo ngme = That man (habitually) talks to himself.
* There is no antipassive construction, and the absolutive object cannot be dropped freely. Pronouns "something" (**iiłto**) and "someone" (**iingme** or **ikaad**) are typically used as objects in such situations.
Adverbial expressions are often built with a noun and a verb such as **hako** ("to use"):
*mote hako* = "speaking" (lit. "using speech")
Adverbs, as well as impersonal expressions, can utilize the *existential copula* **ia**, it's past equivalent **doya**, and it's future equivalent **htiya**
* *yawo ia* = "today" (lit. "it is today")
* *yawo doya* = "yesterday" (lit. "the day was previous")
Adjectives are verb-like in their behavior. Comparatives were historically formed with full reduplication which is fossilized on some common adjectives. Modern language uses the intensifying verb **ajaat** "to be true, real" (coat be.red be.true = the coat is very red/the reddest || coat be.red hat be.true = the hat is redder than the coat)
Pronouns and determiners
Pronouns and determiners generally conjugate for gender (rational-other), person and number (singular-dual-plural).
DEF.SG.R - xee
(didn't have time to work out the other morphemes)
ABS ERG GEN
1s - baa bao batee
2s - jo joo jotee
(didn't have the time to work out the other pronouns)
*ii* - one (1)
*tahsa* - boat (ERG *tahosa*)
*kaad* - man (ERG *kaan*) -> *ikaad* "someone" (usually a human male)
*kankaad* - group of people, team (ERG *konkaan*)
*tien* - girl (ERG *tiel*)
*kassev* - house (ERG *koosse*)
*joos* - water (ERG *joos*)
*josnoos* - sea (ERG *
*mote* - speech, language (ERG *moote*)
*hsaa* - father (ERG *hsaa*)
*tiensen* - younger sister, little girl (ERG *tiensel*)
*momote* - important words, saga, hymn (ERG *momoote*)
*ngore* - threat, aggression (ERG *ngoore*)
*gbiya* - ear, gill
*ngme* - self, identity (ERG *ngme*) -> *iingme* "someone" (any rational being)
*łto* - thing (ERG *łoto*) -> *iiłto* "something"
*yawo* - day, today (ERG *yowo*)
*jaat* - truth, reality (ERG *jaat*)
*ajoos* "to flow"
*vakpa* "to go by boat, to sail"
*roto* "to impale, to skewer"
*yete* "to arrive, to come, to get"
*xkayo* "to travel to, to target something"
*vtoo* "speak to someone, address someone"
*ngore* "shout at, threaten, reproach"
*agbiya* "listen, inquire, ask"
*hako* "use, employ"
*ia* "to be" - existential copula; it is intransitive and forms impersonal expressions of the type "it is X" and "there is X"
*doya* "to be past, to be over, previous" - existential copula used for past things
*htiya* "to be expected, future, next" - existential copula used for future things
*ajaat* "be true, real" - also used to form comparativees
*bote* "to speak", REL (introduces related speech as a finite verb) -mote
*tii* "to do", and *rao* "to act" - they suppletively (and somewhat irregularly) form the neutral auxiliary AUX to convey modal distinctions:
* PFV *tii*
* PROG *ravao*
* ITER *titi*
* STAT *yati*
* INCH *ravaohse*
* CES *raohse*
* HAB *titihse*
"The girl sailed to the man's house."
PFV girl sail man\ERG house arrive DEF.SG.R girl\ERG
tii tien vakpa kaan kassev yete xee tiel
"Did girl sail man's house arrive the girl".
"Reportedly, the girl set sail to the man's house."
REL.INCH girl sail man\ERG house target DEF.SG.R girl\ERG
bomotehse tien vakpa kaan kassev xkayo xee tiel